Nile Valley Sunbirds in the Suez Canal Zone


Simmons, K.E.L.; Hurrell, A.G.

Ibis 93: 468

1951


The history of the status of the Nile Valley Sunbird Nectariniu nietallica in Lower Egypt has been described by Greaves and Tregenza and by Greaves. The species is now a regular winter resident at Cairo where formerly it was only a straggler. Although this sunbird is found in South-west Arabia, in Egypt no previous record has been published of occurrences other than in the Nile Valley. Its northerly movements in winter and dependence on the flowering of certain plants are interesting points in the biology of this bird.

468
SHORT
NOTES
IBIS,
93
(d)
Calling
continues
all
night,
but
it
does
not
keep
the
people
awake,
since
they
are
used
to
it.
They
know
the
birds
by
the
onomatopoeic
name
of
Kalucikuivi.
(e)
In
past
years
a
certain
number
were
killed
with
knobkerries
or
stones;
but
now
the
trees
are
too
tall
(probably
no
bird
roosts
nearer
than
40
feet
to
the
ground),
and
only
occasionally
is
one
obtained.
They
are
very
good
to
eat.
(This
my
servants
and
I
can
confirm,
as
we
ate
the
seven
which
I
shot.
cannot
liken
the
flesh
to
that
of
any
other
creature,
but
it
is
very
palatable.
Cott,
Proc.
Zool.
Soc.'
116
:
475,
gives
little
information
about
palatability
among
the
Falconiformes.)
All
seven
birds
collected
were
fat
and
contained
remains
of
flying
ants,
which
seem
to
be
the
chief
local
prey,
though
I
have
also
seen
locust-hoppers
taken,
grabbed
in
the
claws
without
landing.
It
is
only
possible
to
guess
at
the
numbers
in
this
roosting
colony.
After
the
birds
had
left
on
23
February
I
examined
the
ground
below
the
trees.
It
was
strewn
with
feathers
and
excreta:
Approximately
forty-five
trees
were
being
used.
A
week
later
I
again
visited
the
site
in
the
hope
that
I
might
be
able
to
make
a
count
of
one
particular
tree,
but
by
the
time
the
birds
settled
it
was
much
too
dark;
but
one
hundred
birds
per
tree
is
probably
not
an
underestimate,
which
would
make
the
total
between
four
and
five
thousand.
I
may
add
that
during
the
week
between
my
two
inspections,
when
camped
at
various
sites
some
miles
away,
after
sunset
I
used
to
notice
birds
flying
spread
out
(not
nearer
than
50
yards
to
one
another)
in
the
general
direction
of
the
roosting
site.
The
Western
Red-footed
Falcon
F.
vespertinus
is
known
from
as
close
to
Nyasaland
as
Lusaka,
see
White
and
Winterbottom,
Check
list
of
birds
of
Northern
Rhodesia
'
1949
:
17.
I
have
never
seen
it
in
Nyasaland.
All
the
seventeen
Red-footed
Falcons
I
have
ever
collected
were
F.
anzurensis.
10
March
1951.
C.
W.
BENSON.
NILE
VALLEY
SUNBIRDS
IN
THE
SUEZ
CANAL
ZONE.
The
history
of
the
status
of
the
Nile
Valley
Sunbird
Nectarinia
metallica
in
Lower
Egypt
has
been
described
by
Greaves
and
Tregenza
Ool.
Record
'
17
(4)
:
79-86)
and
by
Greaves
(`
Ibis
'
1945
:
570-571).
The
species
is
now
a
regular
winter
resident
at
Cairo
where
formerly
it
was
only
a
straggler
(Meinertzhagen
(1930),
Nicoll's
birds
of
Egypt'
:
172).
Although
this
sunbird
is
found
in
South-west
Arabia
(vide,
for
example,
Bates,
Ibis
'
1936:
678-679,
and
Meinertzhagen,
Ibis
'
1949:
472),
in
Egypt
no
previous
record
has
been
published
of
occurrences
other
than
in
the
Nile
Valley.
Its
northerly
movements
in
winter
and
dependence
on
the
flowering
of
certain
plants
are
interesting
points
in
the
biology
of
this
bird.
The
following
records
are
the
first
for
the
Suez
Canal
Zone
of
north-eastern
Egypt,
where
at
least
two
of
these
sunbirds
(both
males
in
non-breeding
plumage)
were
seen
in
the
winter
of
1949-50.
On
1
November
Hurrell
observed
a
bird
at
Deversoir,
at
the
head
of
the
Great
Bitter
Lake.
The
three
remaining
records
were
obtained
at
Fayid,
on
the
western
shore
of
the
lake,
in
a
nursery
garden
adjoining
the
Sweet
Water
Canal.
The
arrival
of
a
sunbird
(after
a
high
circling
flight)
was
witnessed
by
Hurrell
and
Lt.-Col.
H.
G.
Brownlow
on
26
November.
This
bird
evidently
wintered
for
a
time
in
the
garden,
where
it
was
located
on
24
December
by
Simmons,
and
on
7
January
by
the
latter
and
R.
W.
Crowe,
on
both
occasions
frequenting
and
feeding
in
the
same
patch
of
Euphorbia,
which
it
shared
with
Chiffchaffs
Phylloscopus
collybita
and
a
pair
of
Graceful
Warblers
Prinia
gracilis.
The
subsequent
withering
of
the
1951
SHORT
NOTES
469
Euphorbia
blooms
probably
accounted
for
the
fact
that
the
sunbird
was
not
seen
after
7
January.
Both
the
Deversoir
and
Fayid
birds
had
a
patch
of
metallic
green
on
the
carpal
region
and
yellow
underparts,
bright
in
the
former,
washed
in
the
latter.
Through
the
kindness
of
R.
H.
Greaves
both
the
writers
were
able
to
watch
Nile
Valley
Sunbirds
at
Gezira,
Cairo,
in
March
1950.
7
February
1951
K.
E.
L.
SIMMONS.
A.
G.
HURRELL.
NOTES
ON
SCEPOMYCTER
WINIFREDAE
AND
CINNYRIS
LOVERIDGEI.
The
following
notes
are
compiled
from
field
observations
and
specimens
collected
during
brief
visits
to
the
Uluguru
Mts.,
Tanganyika
Territory,
in
October
1948
and
November
1950.
In
addition
I
have
been
given
the
privilege
of
examining
a
series
of
both
Scepomycter
winifredae
(Moreau)
and
Cinnyris
loveridgei
(Hartert)
in
Mr.
T.
Andersen's
collection
at
Morogoro.
Scepomycter
winifredae.
Plumage.
This
species
was
based
on
an
immature
male
('
Bull.
Brit.
Orn.
Club
'
58
:
139),
the
adult
not
being
described
until
eight
years
later
(`
Bull.
Brit.
Orn.
Club'
66
:
44).
I
have
recently
been
able
to
examine
an
immature
female
in
the
Andersen
collection
(eastern
Uluguru
forest,
alt.
ca.
5,500
ft.,
25
June
1949)
just
commencing
body
moult
into
adult
dress.
It
differs
from
the
adult
in
being
generally
paler
throughout
;
crown
and
sides
of
face
pale
rufous,
the
rufous
areas
less
extensive
than
in
the
adult
;
chin
dusky
white,
merging
to
pale
rufous
grey
on
the
throat
and
upper
breast
;
remainder
of
underparts
pale
yellowish
grey
with
indistinct
barring
in
the
centre
of
the
belly
;
remaining
plumage
as
in
adult,
but
slightly
paler.
Habits.
Scepomycter
winifredae
is
a
most
difficult
bird
to
locate
and
observe.
It
frequents
forest
where
there
is
an
abundance
of
thick
undergrowth
and
creeper-
covered
trees,
favouring
especially
areas
where
trees
have
been
cut
out
and
a
dense
secondary
growth
has
grown
up.
It
is
generally
found
in
pairs.
At
times
it
descends
to
the
ground,
where
it
searches
amongst
dead
leaves
and
debris
for
insects.
As
a
rule
Scepomycter
is
silent,
but
my
attention
was
drawn
to
a
pair
during
my
last
visit
by
the
call-note
of
the
male.
This
was
a
plaintive,
long-drawn-out
"
weeeeee
",
not
unlike
the
note
of
a
Camaroptera
in
quality,
but
louder
and
much
more
sustained.
Unfortunately
I
have
been
unable
to
discover
the
nest
of
this
species.
Its
breeding
season,
from
the
evidence
of
gonad
development
in
collected
specimens,
commences
in
October
and
continues
until
February
or
March,
with
a
probable
peak
period
in
November—at
the
start
of
the
rainy
season.
The
stomachs
of
six
specimens
examined
contained
unidentified
insect/spider
fragments,
Coleoptera,
Lepidopterous
larvae
and
pupae
and
Blattariae
;
the
stomach
contents
of
a
male
collected
during
my
last
visit,
kindly
examined
by
Miss
Monica
Betts,
contained
fragments
of
2
spiders,
4
Diplopoda
(Myriapods),
3
Coleoptera
ad.,
1
Coleopterous
larva,
1
ad.
Dermapteron
and
1
ad.
Orthopteron
(?
Mantid).
Cinnyris
loveridgei.
Plumages.
Juvenile
and
immature
specimens
in
the
T.
Andersen
collection
now
enable
these
to
be
described.
A
juvenile
male
(Uluguru
Mts.
;
alt.
5,000
ft.,
7
April
1949
;
T.
Andersen)
differs
from
the
adult
female
in
having
a
distinct
pale
grey
throat
and
upper
breast
;
remainder
of
underparts
pale
greyish
green.
Crown
clear
grey,
merging
to
greenish
grey
on
the
nape
and
upperparts,
the
feathers
of
the
mantle